Michael Barwick


Insight for Every Purpose under Heaven

2019 Themes: The Grit of Saturn-Pluto

One of the most common questions the astrologer must contend with when he or she discusses any astrological factor is whether it is “good” or “bad.” The real question is whether something in the stars is favourable or unfavourable, as if astrology defines an unavoidable “fate” that culminates in a painful or pleasurable event.

The truth is that the statements of the cosmos are neutral and surprise! They don’t “cause” anything to happen. They merely reflect what is already in progress around us. The astrologer is able to describe the qualities of a time period by symbolically interpreting its distinct combination of celestial factors.

However, human nature being what it is and life being oh so very far from perfect, the experienced astrologer can certainly tell you what indications tend to be easier than others for most folks.

Remembering “most folks” is critical though because the exceptions that emerge from handling what are obviously “challenging” indicators demonstrate a poker-playing truth: it’s often not the cards you’re dealt, but rather how you play them that makes the difference. A wise astrologer can tell you how to make the best of anything because the truth is that even poisons have their uses. If life gives you nothing but lemons, you can always make lemonade!

Nevertheless, you don’t have to be an astrologer to understand that we are living in difficult times. Why should anyone be surprised when the heavens reflect it?

From an astrological perspective then, it is indeed interesting to note that the two heaviest planets are currently moving through the cardinal earth sign of Capricorn, which symbolizes among other things, the very structures that support life.

Saturn, traditionally considered the “Greater Malefic”, joined Pluto, “the Transformer” in Capricorn in December last year and will be in the sign until 2020.

Pluto originally entered Capricorn in 2008, a year whose economic meltdown we may yet see a replication of given that some nations have chosen since to undo the controls on their banks that were put in place to prevent such an economic event from happening again. Pluto stays in Capricorn until 2023.

The faster moving Saturn will conjoin Pluto in January of 2020. They are difficult enough separately and considerably harder together.

Historian Richard Tarnas describes important Saturn-Pluto alignments as coinciding with “especially challenging historical periods marked by a pervasive quality of intense contraction: eras of international crisis and conflict, empowerment of reactionary forces and totalitarian impulses, organized violence and oppression, all marked with sometimes lasting traumatic effects.” Tarnas, Richard; Cosmos and Psyche: Intimations of a New World View (Toronto: Penguin Group Canada, 2006), 209.

Sound familiar? It’s noteworthy that Tarnas wrote that description in 2006.

From his historical analysis of the Saturn-Pluto and other cycles, Tarnas concluded that the expression of the symbolism precedes an exact alignment in the cycle. The planets merely have to be 15° apart. Saturn came to within 15° of Pluto at the beginning of 2018.

Tarnas’ description of the quality of our time as anticipated by the movements of these two planets has actually been front-page news in many parts of the globe this past year. Many people of all sorts of political considerations are concerned about what appears to be a contraction of democracy and an undermining of its institutions in service of interests other than the majority of the population. The new difference between nations seems to be those who are run by gangsters and those who are still run by the rule of law. Some are experiencing the struggle in their own national capitals.

Meanwhile, there’s increasing evidence that as a species, we are continuing down the path to destroying our planet. It’s an open secret that our civilization in its current form is unsustainable and that the richest among us are looking for ways that they can somehow escape the debacle when (not if) the whole system crashes. The Earth is the biggest structure that supports us and the life forms we know: there is no plan B, yet we persist in much of our collective behaviour even as some are trying to get the nations of the world to take steps to avert catastrophe or at least start lessening the harm.

This theme will continue through 2019 and for some time to come. Fake news may deceive many, but reality itself cannot be fooled. Saturn-Pluto is about what is the case, brutal though it may be, not what one would wish it to be because it happens to feel better. The truth cannot be obscured forever and its power to transform is considerable.

In the face of such global negativity, the best personal response lies in making the most of what Saturn-Pluto is good for: taking responsibility for what needs to be transformed.

This is in the collective too: consider as an example the current popularity of Marie Kondo’s philosophy regarding “tidying up”: assessing your personal inventory of stuff, thanking and eliminating what must go, and organizing what remains in a way so that you can more fully experience the joy it gives you.

Politically yes we see the rise of the alt-right because it’s capable of assuming the populist stance against the neo-liberal political consensus that has lead us to the brink of ecocide and a seemingly ever-increasing gulf between the rich and poor. But Saturn-Pluto doesn’t really take sides because the hardening of the forces who are opposing those acting out some of the worst attributes of human nature is also occurring. The resistance sees it needs the best Saturn-Pluto virtues: brutal realism, tenacious toughness, relentless efficiency driving greater effectiveness, street smarts, and the ability to deeply commit to working very hard under difficult conditions.

Internally though, there’s more that Saturn-Pluto can offer. While it is supremely easy to project the darkness of our times on others, better is to look more deeply into our own darkness, take responsibility for what’s there, and surrender to the required processes to transform and re-integrate it into who we are. The fruit is dearly won, but it is nothing less than being able to operate from a place of greater integrity, insight and compassion for others not fortunate enough to be able to make the same journey.

Yeah I admit that it’s heavy. Such is the quality of the bass note of these times.

Key Dates

  • December 2, 2019 – Jupiter joins Saturn-Pluto in Capricorn, and conjoins with both Pluto and Saturn later in 2020
  • January 12, 2020 – Saturn conjoins Pluto in Capricorn